Friday, November 1, 2013 – 10:40AM: El Nido, Palawan
To say that I was ready/craving to be surrounded by warm tropical water is a huge understatement. By the time we left for El Nido, we had covered quite a bit of Luzon ground but my skin was lacking the salty residue that this Florida-born girl needs.
We arrived at a small wing of the Manila airport itching to hop the hour flight to El Nido and were pleasantly greeted with an air-conditioned lounge, a personalized waiting area, immaculate bathrooms (with real toilet paper!) and brewed coffee! Ah, the simple things we take for granted..
I sat glued to the window seat watching island after island pass underneath our plane – and with each one the water taunting us with its 20 shades of teal. After landing at the El Nido airport which consisted of one tarmac, a dirt road and an outside tiki-style hut as the arriving gate, we jumped in a motorbike tricycle en route to our home for the next three nights.
Once again, our friend Josh did not disappoint with his recommendations – the Makulay Lodge sits on a somewhat secluded bit of land hidden in lush brush that looked like a scene from Lost. Up the steepest set of winding stairs, we were escorted to the very top of the hill and welcomed to our treehouse (we have a soft spot for these) overlooking Cadlao Island. Pure postcard surreal moment. Our ‘home’ was the ideal hideaway for sipping cocktails, catching up on reading and occasionally dodging a spider, a mosquito – or a bat. That view will forever be yet another mental happy place I retreat to when I’m face-to-armpit on the crowded NY subway.
El Nido is a little beach town with similarities of a surf town without the surf; laid back, on the water, fresh fish, beach attire everywhere you go, and a good fill of young tourists. After two recommendations on where to eat, we made our way to Squidos for an inaugural El Nido feast of equal parts seafood and eye candy.
Our first full day of sun, swimming and exploring started off with us jumping on a banca to uncover hidden beaches, secret caves and to snorkel our way in the most picturesque turquoise water. We literally swam with the fishes – the prettiest neon-colored fish that were curious enough to swim right by our side as we toured their home. Magical to say the least.
With the need to traverse in and out of El Nido, we rented a motorbike and hit the dirt roads in search of more beaches. We never were able to find Nacpan beach, but waving to every smiling local child and sitting behind Tomas as he navigated our scenic expedition was monumental in its own rite.
A few memories captured below – I’ll always hold Palawan as one of my happy places, but I’m excited to see what other paradise-perfect scenery we can find. Off to Boracay!